Culture of Hoops

What Game of Thrones characters are the NBA’s best players?

Image courtesy of cliff1066™/Flickr.

Image courtesy of cliff1066™/Flickr.

If you are as excited about the aftermath of the Season 4 premiere of Game of Thrones as I am, then I am impressed. Also, congratulations, you are now my friend. Songs of fire and ice dance trough our brains once more and today we cross the narrow sea of ideas and arrive at a red waste of absurdity.

(Note: I have not read the books and do not intend to. The following contains spoilers from the first three seasons and I matched the characters based on what I’ve seen from them in those seasons without much thought of where character arcs might be going. If you think you could make a better list, by all means submit one in the comments section!)

Michael Jordan: Robert Baratheon

All hail the king. Michael, of House Jordan, First of His Name and Keeper of the Realm, true king of the First Men, and the greatest of all time. His reign was long and he conquered with force and powerful allies. However, his undignified ending—“King Robert Baratheon, murdered by a pig”—left an odd feeling at the end of his career. The lingering feeling that it all should have ended with more pomp and circumstance and not, y’know, a stint with the Washington Wizards and a torpedo job of the Charlotte Bobcats.

When he was felled from the NBA, chaos was widespread and the league (Westeros) was changed forever.

Pat Riley: Tywin Lannister

The kings of the realm play on the court, the puppet master plays above it. While the denizens of Westeros clamor and fight and dedicate lives and oaths to the king or their city-states, we swear fealty to great players and teams we call home. But above and beyond all that is someone pulling the strings, hiding the hand of action that guides Westeros and the NBA; the cerebral, methodical, sometimes ruthless Pat Tywin Riley of House Lannister.

Kobe Bryant: The Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister

At one time considered the best in the land, or at the very least consistently in the top three and rarely beaten, Jaime Lannister has been hobbled late in his career by a major injury.

Still, he broods with the anxiety that people don’t realize he is as good as he is (or was) and, just like Kobe Bryant, is sometimes haunted by an event from his past that some people just won’t let him forget. Jaime and Kobe are characters you love to hate and hate to love. Maybe you started out not-at-all a fan, and you can’t get behind some of the tactics and ruthlessness and borderline insanity, but the charm and intellect and awareness draws you back in. And then he kills you.

Carmelo Anthony: Tyrion Lannister

Carmelo is often measured by what he does not have, how he doesn’t quite measure up. Tyrion and Melo both had a tendency early on to not take the game super seriously and have even been dismissed as jokesters. Elite in many regards, when Tyrion is compared to his brother Jaime (when Melo is compared to Kobe/LeBron/Jordan), he just doesn’t quite stack up. Carmelo is family with the elites but the outside world almost never treats him as a legitimate member of that family.

Melo also had a bit of a reputation as a partier (and probably did pretty well with the ladies) until meeting the love of his life (Lala is Shae now) and cleaning up his act a bit. And finally, the near future for both is quite volitale, filled with grand and treacherous possibilities for both Tyrion Lannister and Carmelo Anthony.

Kevin Durant: Robb Stark

KD and RS are golden boys, plain and simple. Both exhibit all the characteristics a mother loves. They fight with honor and pride and integrity and mayhaps even a hint of naiveté. Both seem to believe that doing things the right way should pay off (in this life or the next) and are hailed ’round the world for their bravery, courage, kindness, and grace.

Hopefully for Kevin Durant, his hope and optimism won’t lead him to the same kind of unceremonious departure from the league. Having yet to win the big one, Durant’s march has seemed promising so far but it’s very possible that, just like Robb, you don’t get a crown and a throne just for being a good guy … especially not in Westeros.

James Harden: Jon Snow

This one was just too easy. The Starks (the Oklahoma City Thunder), whom everyone loves and cheers for, sent away the only guy they had with a strong helping of badassery and some edge, thereby making Jon Snow (James Harden) the bastard they thought they could do without. He was the sixth man of the house.

Unsure whether or not he could ever be “the man” with brother Robb around, Snow has managed to carve out a niche for himself and is finally figuring out how to be the master of his own destiny.

Jon Snow believes he can be the go-to guy and, as his beard fuels his strength and he learns of the wintery abode and the White Walkers, Jon may be closer to understanding power and obtaining it than he ever would have staying in Oklahoma City. I mean Winterfell.

Tim Duncan: Ned Stark

He’s old and boring and is someone everyone should look up to and blah blah … yawn. The Big Fundamental, Eddard Stark is everyone’s shining example of a life lived with honor. He was never as revered as some of his peers, just went quietly about performing his duties and maintaining the peace. The songs will tell of kings and warriors (Jordan, Kobe) but the history books will note that Ned Stark and Tim Duncan were among some of the most important influential people to inhabit Westeros/the NBA.

One does not simply ignore the fact that Ned Stark also met an unceremonious end, and hopefully Duncan goes out on his own terms. But both leave behind enduring legacies of being paragons of purity. Except that Duncan is a constant whiner and Stark fathered a child out of wedlock. Other than that, though, they are totally guys you want to look up to.

LeBron James: Daenerys Targaryen

Okay, this one might seem weird at first, but in my head it essentially goes like this: Other people in Westeros are cool. They have intellect, or charm, or armies, or wealth. They have a list of attributes and commodities and all the fine pageantry that the Seven Kingdoms can offer; except they don’t have dragons. Dragons win. LeBron has dragons. LeBron is dragons. I don’t know exactly how this works but he wins and he has the best supply chest of anyone in his path.

Daenerys has won all the battles she has fought so far, giving her a better record than all the competition. And every time you think someone might beat her, you remember, “oh yeah, she has this thing that makes her better than everyone else.” In LeBron James’ case that thing is being a once-in-a-generation athlete. For Dany, it’s dragons.

Dwyane Wade: Khal Drogo

So this one time, this guys was all like, “do you see the polka dots on Dwyane Wade’s shirts? When a Miami Heat player loses in the finals his polka dots are removed and Dwyane Wade has never been defeated.” And Daenerys/LeBron was all like, “oh I’m gettin’ in on that.” Of course shortly thereafter, Khal Wade was defeated. Having been known as a dominant force and an unparalleled athlete early on, Wade was beaten after bringing LeBron into the fold and had to cede control of his horde as he lay wounded. After years of living and playing fast and hard, all the physicality has taken its toll.

Now LeBron drags his corpse, not dead but not fully alive, and his legacy into the future.

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